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“It was just the feeling I got when I walked into the school,” said Josephine Montalbano of the time she first visited The HeartShare School. As a Queens resident, Josephine never thought she would consider a Brooklyn school, but stepping foot into the Bath Beach school, Josephine immediately changed her mind.
Her daughter Julia, now 13, started at The HeartShare School seven years ago. At age 6, Julia wasn’t able to speak. She also wasn’t stemming, which is a self-soothing repetitive motion typical of kids with autism. “Julia didn’t make any noise at all. She wasn’t comfortable with other children next to her,” Josephine recalled.
Today, Julia can respond to the question most parents desperately hope their children will answer: “How was school today?” Julia can now do that. She will share what she did that day and if anything notable happened.
Through the ABA curriculum, as well as physical and occupational therapy, Julia grew from a six year old child who could not speak to a thirteen year old who can hold a conversation with her peers and her family. “Julia has a sense of curiosity that she never had before,” her mother explained. “She’ll walk up to her classmates to chat or ask if me if a family member might be coming over. Julia also is great on the computer. Googling this and that. It’s remarkable.”
She’s also developed a love of arts and crafts. Julia can be seen cutting patterns, painting or crafting her own jewelry. She enjoys all things Disney, and plays video games. She looks forward to going out in the community and has developed friendships with her classmates and neighbors. “Julia can do more than I ever thought she would be able to – reading, writing, math, conversing with others,” Josephine listed proudly.
The HeartShare School equipped Josephine with the tools to reinforce positive behavior, as modeled by the ABA curriculum. A supportive and diligent school staff keeps parents like Josephine updated with detailed notes discussed during frequent meetings and conferences.
“Julia could live on her own one day. I know she could work a part-time job. Julia has become very independent,” said Josephine, who can dream big because of the support her daughter and family found at The HeartShare School.